The holy grail of Cowboys pre-draft activity is the official pre-draft visit. Every year in early April, the Cowboys are allowed to bring in up to 30 usually high-profile, national draft-eligible players for official pre-draft visits.
Here’s why we watch the official pre-draft visits so closely: Since 2006, all but two of the Cowboys’ top picks in the draft all visited with the Cowboys prior to the draft. This even includes Jason Williams (‘09, third round) and Trysten Hill (‘19, second round), who each were the top picks of their draft class.
- In 2012, Morris Claiborne became the first Cowboys top pick since DeMarcus Ware in 2005 who wasn’t invited to Dallas prior to the draft.
- In 2020, CeeDee Lamb was not part of the Top 30 visits to Dallas.
- There were no in-person pre-draft visits in 2021, but the Cowboys did conduct some type of Zoom interview with Micah Parsons, though it’s not entirely clear who took part in that call from the Cowboys’ side.
The “Top 30” visits do not involve any workouts, they are strictly meet-and-greets where the team can get a better feel for the players and the medical staff can conduct more thorough medical checkups, but the players do not work out for the team.
The Cowboys can also bring in as many draft-eligible local prospects (players who went to high school in the Dallas/Fort-Worth metropolitan area or attended TCU, SMU, or North Texas) as they like for visits and workouts during “Dallas Day,” but that’s separate from the Top 30 visits.
Additionally, the team can have private workouts with as many prospects as they want, but in the Cowboys’ hierarchy of pre-draft meetings, workouts, interviews, and visits, private workouts frankly don’t mean all that much.
Here’s an overview of all 30 “Top 30” visitors:
|Top 30 Visitors|
|CBS Rank||Name||POS||College||Proj. Rd|
|27||Chris Olave||WR||Ohio State||1-2|
|7||Charles Cross||OT||Miss. State||1|
|24||Bernhard Raimann||OT||Central Michigan||1|
|31||Zion Johnson||OG||Boston College||1-2|
|30||Kenyon Green||OL||Texas A&M||1-2|
|258||Joshua Ezeudu||OT||North Carolina||7-FA|
|386||Dawson Deaton||OC||Texas Tech||7-FA|
|57||DeMarvin Leal||DT||Texas A&M||2|
|68||Sam Williams||DE||Ole Miss||2-3|
|194||Michael Clemons||DE||Texas A&M||5-6|
|--||Luiji Vilain||DE||Wake Forest||FA|
|--||Devin Harper||LB||Oklahoma State||FA|
|--||James Houston||LB||Jackson State||FA|
|88||Jeremy Ruckert||TE||Ohio State||3|
|92||Jalen Wydermyer||TE||Texas A&M||3|
|324||Marquese Bell||S||Florida A&M||7-FA|
|--||Daron Bland||CB||Fresno State||FA|
At this point, we can do little more than guess in which round each player will be taken, but going by the players are ranked by different draftniks, there could be up to nine first-rounders or late-first/early-second-rounders on this list. The surprise here are the three wide receivers, all likely first-rounders; in a draft that’s supposedly deep at WR, one might have expected the Cowboys to look for WRs more in the middle rounds, but they seem to be open to taking a WR with their top pick.
The list of visitors gives us an early idea of what a Cowboys draft strategy could look like:
- Get an offensive lineman with one of the top two picks, but be ready to take a wide receiver in the first if the right opportunity presents itself.
- Shore up the defensive line on day two of the draft (rounds 2-3).
- Be ready to pounce on a dropping linebacker on day two.
- Get a tight end in the middle rounds.
The Cowboys are obviously not going to be able to draft five positions with their first three picks, but in terms of contingency planning, this approach does make sense:
I think going for a 1-2 punch of OL and DL in the draft is perfectly reasonable - with a Lamb/Parsons exception (WR/LB) built in - and then taking a tight end later.
I would also seriously entertain a Frederick-style trade down to the bottom of the first, though trading down is much easier in theory than in practice.
Based on this Top 30 list, which positions would you prioritize in the draft?
Texas A&M DE Michael Clemons added to the list.